Jim Smart
April 16, 2007
Photos By: The Mustang & Fords Archives

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Hot rodding has been a multifaceted evolution, leading to music trends, changes in municipal infrastructure, counter-culture art, customs, and the all-American musclecar of the '60s. Hot rodding didn't escape Detroit's notice. It saw hot rodding as a way to sell cars. What won on Sunday sold on Monday-and so it went for Motown. When Detroit got into the factory hot-rod business beginning in the late '50s, Main Street hot rodding began to take a back seat to the factory-fast musclecar. There was the Chevy 409, Pontiac 421, Oldsmobile 4-4-2, Chrysler 426, and Ford 427.

In 1957, Ford entered the competition with dual-quad and supercharged V-8 sedans. Chevy blindsided everyone with an optional, fuel-injected 283. Other GM divisions and Chrysler followed quickly with their own powerhouses. Ford jumped on the cubic-inch bandwagon in 1960 with a mechanical-lifter 352ci high-performance FE-series big-block. In 1961, Ford fitted its largest rides with a 401-horse 390 high-performance Tri-Power mill with an aggressive mechanical camshaft. In 1962, it was the 406, and for 1963, it was the legendary 427 world-beater, taking Ford to not just one but three Le Mans wins.

Our job here isn't to tell you the entire history of high-performance cars but to show you how we got where we are today in the world of street rodding. Hot rodding-suffering from a bad reputation rooted in young outlaws and street racers-lost popularity during the '60s and early '70s. Rising insurance rates coupled with fuel prices torpedoed the hot-rodding movement right along with factory musclecars. Going fast became unpopular as quickly as it became popular. Detroit got out of it along with a lot of American hot rodders.

When hot rodding started making a comeback in the late '70s, its name was changed to "street rodding." No one knows where that term originated either, but street rodding sounded more politically correct than hot rodding, and the name stuck. With street rodding has come a lot of interesting modifications we have been able to adapt to our midcentury Fords. You name the nuance and it has found its way into restomods: the billet look, wild and crazy wheels, body modifications, cool fiberglass bolt-ons, specialty lighting, custom leather interiors, high-horsepower engines, fuel injection, Overdrive for cruising, better brakes and suspension systems, shaved bodies, frenched taillights and antennas, awesome graphics, and just about anything else you can imagine.

What Is Street Rodding?
Modifying a classic Ford is as old as the Fords themselves. So what happens when street rodding joins the world of restomod? It means restomod takes on new definition, molding street-rodding nuances into old Fords. Again, this is nothing new, just a fresh, exciting approach to midcentury classic Fords. These cars are now old enough-and classic enough-to become rolling road art and stunning innovation.

This month, we'll look at the visual differences that can make a classic Ford a street rod. Many of these differences come from off-the-shelf goodies; others from the ability to fabricate parts and do body modifications. Be advised-not all of it comes cheap. The more you can do yourself, the more money you'll save.

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